The oldest attestation of human presence in Galicia has been found in the Eirós Cave, in the municipality of Triacastela, which has preserved animal remains and Neanderthal stone objects from the Middle Paleolithic. The earliest culture to have left significant architectural traces is the Megalithic culture, which expanded along the western European coasts during the Neolithic and Calcolithic eras. Thousands of Megalithic tumuli are distributed throughout the country, but mostly along the coastal areas. Within each tumulus is a stone burial chamber known locally as anta (dolmen), frequently preceded by a corridor. Galicia was later influenced by the Bell Beaker culture. Its rich mineral deposits of tin and gold led to the development of Bronze Age metallurgy, and to the commerce of bronze and gold items all along the Atlantic coast of Western Europe. A shared elite culture evolved in this region during the Atlantic Bronze Age.
Palloza houses in eastern Galicia, an evolved form of the Iron Age local roundhouses
Dating from the end of the Megalithic era, and up to the Bronze Age, numerous stone carvings (petroglyphs) are found in open air. They usually represent cup and ring marks, labyrinths, deer, Bronze Age weapons, and riding and hunting scenes. Large numbers of these stone carvings can be found in the Rías Baixas regions, at places such as Tourón and Campo Lameiro.
|gold Bronze Age helmet|
Gallaeci lived in castros. These were usually annular forts, with one or more concentric earthen or stony walls, with a trench in front of each one. They were frequently located at hills, or in seashore cliffs and peninsulas. Some well known castros can be found on the seashore at: Fazouro, Santa Tegra, Baroña, and O Neixón; and inland at: San Cibrao de Lás, Borneiro, Castromao, and Viladonga. Some other distinctive features, such as temples, baths, reservoirs, warrior statues and decorative carvings have been found associated to this culture, together with rich gold and metalworking traditions.
|Iron Age Head|
Early Middle Ages
Miro, king of Galicia, and Martin of Braga, from an 1145 manuscript of Martin's Formula Vitae Honestae, now in the Austrian National Library. The original work was dedicated to King Miro with the header "To King Miro, the most glorious and calm, the pious, famous for his Catholic faith"
In the early 5th century, the deep crisis suffered by the Roman Empire allowed different tribes of Central Europe (Suebi, Vandals and Alani) to cross the Rhine and penetrate into the rule on 31 December 406. Its progress towards the Iberian Peninsula forced the Roman authorities to establish a treaty (foedus) by which the Suebi would settle peacefully and govern Galicia as imperial allies. So, from 409 Galicia was taken by the Suebi, forming the first medieval kingdom to be created in Europe, in 411, even before the fall of the Roman Empire, being also the first Germanic kingdom to mint coinage in Roman lands. During this period a Briton colony and bishopric (see Mailoc) was established in Northern Galicia (Britonia), probably as foederati and allies of the Suebi. In 585, the Visigothic King Leovigild invaded the Suebic kingdom of Galicia and defeated it, bringing it under Visigoth control.
Later the Muslims invaded Spain (711), but the Arabs and Moors never managed to have any real control over Galicia, which was later incorporated into the expanding Christian Kingdom of Asturias, usually known as Gallaecia or Galicia (Yillīqiya and Galīsiya) by Muslim Chroniclers, as well as by many European contemporaries. This era consolidated Galicia as a Christian society which spoke a Romance language. During the next century Galician noblemen took northern Portugal, conquering Coimbra in 871, thus freeing what was considered the southernmost city of ancient Galicia.
High and Low Middle Ages
Partial view of the Romanesque interior of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
In the 9th century, the rise of the cult of the Apostle James in Santiago de Compostela gave Galicia a particular symbolic importance among Christians, an importance it would hold throughout the Reconquista. As the Middle Ages went on, Santiago became a major pilgrim destination and the Way of Saint James (Camiño de Santiago) a major pilgrim road, a route for the propagation of Romanesque art and the words and music of the troubadors. During the 10th and 11th centuries, a period during which Galician nobility become related to the royal family, Galicia was at times headed by its own native kings, while Vikings (locally known as Leodemanes or Lordomanes) occasionally raided the coasts. The Towers of Catoira (Pontevedra) were built as a system of fortifications to prevent and stop the Viking raids on Santiago de Compostela.
In 1063, Ferdinand I of Castile divided his realm among his sons, and the Kingdom of Galicia was granted to Garcia II of Galicia. In 1072, it was forcibly annexed by Garcia's brother Alfonso VI of León; from that time Galicia was united with the Kingdom of León under the same monarchs. In the 13th century Alfonso X of Castile standardized the Castilian language and made it the language of court and government. Nevertheless, in his Kingdom of Galicia the Galician language was the only language spoken, and the most used in government and legal uses, as well as in literature.
On the other hand, the lack of an effective royal justice system in the Kingdom led to the social conflict known as the Guerras Irmandiñas ('Wars of the brotherhoods'), when leagues of peasants and burghers, with the support of a number of knights, noblemen, and under legal protection offered by the remote king, toppled many of the castles of the Kingdom and briefly drove the noblemen into Portugal and Castile. Soon after, in the late 15th century, in the dynastic conflict between Isabella I of Castile and Joanna La Beltraneja, part of the Galician aristocracy supported Joanna. After Isabella's victory, she initiated an administrative and political reform which the chronicler Jeronimo Zurita defined as "doma del Reino de Galicia": 'It was then when the taming of Galicia began, because not just the local lords and knights, but all the people of that nation were the ones against the others very bold and warlike'. These reforms, while establishing a local government and tribunal (the Real Audiencia del Reino de Galicia) and bringing the nobleman under submission, also brought most Galician monasteries and institutions under Castilian control, in what has been criticized as a process of centralisation. At the same time the kings began to call the Xunta or Cortes of the Kingdom of Galicia, an assembly of deputies or representatives of the cities of the Kingdom, to ask for monetary and military contributions. This assembly soon developed into the voice and legal representation of the Kingdom, and the depositary of its will and laws.
Early Modern Era
The modern period of the kingdom of Galicia began with the murder or defeat of some of the most powerful Galician lords, such as Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor, called Pedro Madruga, and Rodrigo Henriquez Osorio, at the hands of the Castilian armies sent to Galicia between the years 1480 and 1486. Isabella I of Castile, considered a usurper by many Galician nobles, eradicated all armed resistance and definitively established the royal power of the Castilian monarchy. Fearing a general revolt, the monarchs ordered the banishing of the rest of the great lords like Pedro de Bolaño, Diego de Andrade or Lope Sánchez de Moscoso, among others.
|Kingdom of Galicia 1603|
In the late years of the 15th century the written form of the Galician language began a slow decline as it was increasingly replaced by Spanish, which would culminate in the Séculos Escuros "the Dark Centuries" of the language, roughly from the 16th century through to the mid-18th century, when written Galician almost completely disappeared except for private or occasional uses but the spoken language remained the common language of the people in the villages and even the cities.
|Maria Pita, heroine of the defense of A Coruña |
during the English siege of 1589
After the rupture of the wars with Portugal and Catalonia, the Junta changed its attitude, this time due to the exhaustion of Galicia, now involved not just in naval or oversea operations, but also in an exhausting war with the Portuguese, war which produced thousands of casualties and refugees and was heavily disturbing to the local economy and commerce. So, in the second half of the 17th century the Junta frequently denied or considerably reduced the initial petitions of the monarch, and though the tension didn't rise to the levels experienced in Portugal or Catalonia, there were frequent urban mutinies and some voices even asked for the secession of the Kingdom of Galicia.
Late Modern and Contemporary
During the Peninsular War the successful uprising of the local people against the new French authorities, together with the support of the British Army, limited the occupation to a six-month period in 1808-1809. During the pre-war period the Supreme Council of the Kingdom of Galicia (Junta Suprema del Reino de Galicia), auto-proclaimed interim sovereign in 1808, was the sole government of the country and mobilized near 40,000 men against the invaders.
The 1833 territorial division of Spain put a formal end to the Kingdom of Galicia, unifying Spain into a single centralized monarchy. Instead of seven provinces and a regional administration, Galicia was reorganized into the current four provinces. Although it was recognized as a "historical region", that status was strictly honorific. In reaction, nationalist and federalist movements arose.
The liberal General Miguel Solís Cuetos led a separatist coup attempt in 1846 against the authoritarian regime of Ramón María Narváez. Solís and his forces were defeated at the Battle of Cacheiras, 23 April 1846, and the survivors, including Solís himself, were shot. They have taken their place in Galician memory as the Martyrs of Carral or simply the Martyrs of Liberty.
Defeated on the military front, Galicians turned to culture. The Rexurdimento focused on recovery of the Galician language as a vehicle of social and cultural expression. Among the writers associated with this movement are Rosalía de Castro, Manuel Murguía, Manuel Leiras Pulpeiro, and Eduardo Pondal.
In the early 20th century came another turn toward nationalist politics with Solidaridad Gallega (1907–1912) modeled on Solidaritat Catalana in Catalonia. Solidaridad Gallega failed, but in 1916 Irmandades da Fala (Brotherhood of the Language) developed first as a cultural association but soon as a full-blown nationalist movement. Vicente Risco and Ramón Otero Pedrayo were outstanding cultural figures of this movement, and the magazine Nós ('Us'), founded 1920, its most notable cultural institution, Lois Peña Novo the outstanding political figure.
The Second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931. During the republic, the Partido Galeguista (PG) was the most important of a shifting collection of Galician nationalist parties. Following a referendum on a Galician Statute of Autonomy, Galicia was granted the status of an autonomous region.
Galicia was spared the worst of the fighting in that war: it was one of the areas where the initial coup attempt at the outset of the war was successful, and it remained in Nationalist (Franco's army's) hands throughout the war. While there were no pitched battles, there was repression and death: all political parties were abolished, as were all labor unions and Galician nationalist organizations as the Seminario de Estudos Galegos. Galicia's statute of autonomy was annulled (as were those of Catalonia and the Basque provinces once those were conquered). According to Carlos Fernández Santander, at least 4,200 people were killed either extrajudicially or after summary trials, among them republicans, communists, Galician nationalists, socialists and anarchists. Victims included the civil governors of all four Galician provinces; Juana Capdevielle, the wife of the governor of A Coruña; mayors such as Ánxel Casal of Santiago de Compostela, of the Partido Galeguista; prominent socialists such as Jaime Quintanilla in Ferrol and Emilio Martínez Garrido in Vigo; Popular Front deputies Antonio Bilbatúa, José Miñones, Díaz Villamil, Ignacio Seoane, and former deputy Heraclio Botana); soldiers who had not joined the rebellion, such as Generals Rogelio Caridad Pita and Enrique Salcedo Molinuevo and Admiral Antonio Azarola; and the founders of the PG, Alexandre Bóveda and Víctor Casas, as well as other professionals akin to republicans and nationalists, as the journalist Manuel Lustres Rivas or physician Luis Poza Pastrana. Many others were forced to escape into exile, or were victims of other reprisals and removed from their jobs and positions. General Francisco Franco — himself a Galician from Ferrol — ruled as dictator from the civil war until his death in 1975. Franco's centralizing regime suppressed any official use of the Galician language, including the use of Galician names for newborns, although its everyday oral use was not forbidden. Among the attempts at resistance were small leftist guerrilla groups such as those led by José Castro Veiga ("O Piloto") and Benigno Andrade ("Foucellas"), both of whom were ultimately captured and executed. In the 1960s, ministers such as Manuel Fraga Iribarne introduced some reforms allowing technocrats affiliated with Opus Dei to modernize administration in a way that facilitated capitalist economic development. However, for decades Galicia was largely confined to the role of a supplier of raw materials and energy to the rest of Spain, causing environmental havoc and leading to a wave of migration to Venezuela and to various parts of Europe. Fenosa, the monopolistic supplier of electricity, built hydroelectric dams, flooding many Galician river valleys.
The Galician economy finally began to modernize with a Citroën factory in Vigo, the modernization of the canning industry and the fishing fleet, and eventually a modernization of small peasant farming practices, especially in the production of cows' milk. In the province of Ourense, businessman and politician Eulogio Gómez Franqueira gave impetus to the raising of livestock and poultry by establishing the Cooperativa Orensana S.A. (Coren).
During the last decade of Franco's rule, there was a renewal of nationalist feeling in Galicia. The early 1970s were a time of unrest among university students, workers, and farmers. In 1972, general strikes in Vigo and Ferrol cost the lives of Amador Rey and Daniel Niebla. Later, the bishop of Mondoñedo-Ferrol, Miguel Anxo Araúxo Iglesias, wrote a pastoral letter that was not well received by the Franco regime, about a demonstration in Bazán (Ferrol) where two workers died.
As part of the transition to democracy upon the death of Franco in 1975, Galicia regained its status as an autonomous region within Spain with the Statute of Autonomy of 1981, which begins, "Galicia, historical nationality, is constituted as an Autonomous Community to access to its self-government, in agreement with the Spanish Constitution and with the present Statute (...)". Varying degrees of nationalist or independentist sentiment are evident at the political level. The Bloque Nacionalista Galego or BNG, is a conglomerate of left-wing parties and individuals that claims Galician political status as a nation.
From 1990 to 2005, Manuel Fraga, former minister and ambassador in the Franco dictature, presided over the Galician autonomous government, the Xunta de Galicia. Fraga was associated with the Partido Popular ('People's Party', Spain's main national conservative party) since its founding. In 2002, when the oil tanker Prestige sank and covered the Galician coast in oil, Fraga was accused by the grassroots movement Nunca Mais ("Never again") of having been unwilling to react. In the 2005 Galician elections, the 'People's Party' lost its absolute majority, though remaining (barely) the largest party in the parliament, with 43% of the total votes. As a result, power passed to a coalition of the Partido dos Socialistas de Galicia (PSdeG) ('Galician Socialists' Party'), a federal sister-party of Spain's main social-democratic party, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, 'Spanish Socialist Workers Party') and the nationalist Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG). As the senior partner in the new coalition, the PSdeG nominated its leader, Emilio Perez Touriño, to serve as Galicia's new president, with Anxo Quintana, the leader of BNG, as its vice president.
|Electric Cars made in Vigo|
In 2012 several parties and individuals abandoned the BNG. Encontro Irmandiño abandoned the bloc and joined with Fronte Obreira Galega, the FPG, Movemento pola Base and other collectives to form Anova-Nationalist Brotherhood. Anova obtained 9 seats in the 2012 Galician election as part of the Galician Left Alternative coalition. BNG obtained 7 seats and PPdG won the elections again.